Review: Grxzz, 'Commander of the Beast Realm'



Commander of The Beast Realm

Galt House Records

A little more than two years ago, Grxzz set about a plan to release a trilogy of mixtapes by the end of 2013. By mid-summer, he was two-thirds of the way there, with January's King of the Forest and July's God of the Oceans marking his debut and follow-up. Anxious to complete the trifecta, the rapper had already started writing for the last third, Commander of the Beast Realm, when he ran into financing and other problems and had to delay the tape. 

After about 18 months of issues, Grxzz was finally able to drop COTBR in early February, ending both his wait and his trilogy with a dynamic collection of 13 tracks that tells a story. It unfolds in four parts, a cloudy but consistent narrative of love, betrayal and sadness.

Grxzz doesn't just dive headfirst into the emotional deep-end, though. COTBR leads off with "wrath," obviously a better canvas for disses and boasts than confessions of the heart. Using his relentless, aggressive delivery, Grxzz cuts right through the ominous, cloudy synths and heavy lower-end that mark the early section, peaking with his torrent of bars on "Lionhearts" and setting the stage for the emcee's transformation on the rest of the album.

Lyrically, Grxzz has a love of cosmic language, with a penchant for mythological references and grand metaphors. These are dramatic, but can sometimes wear thin –– he mentions Judas, serpents, gods, and covenants, among others, more than a few times on COTBR, lessening their potency. Still, each of the four emotional palettes he addresses lends itself well to grandiose comparisons, and when his rhymes land, there's just something so satisfying about it. 

Grxzz falls back a bit during the section of "despair," a quartet of tracks on which he battles sobriety as much as loneliness and sinks deeper into his feelings, culminating in the perversely jazzy "Leaves." During the "lust" portion, the stakes start to change: the subject matter gets hedonist, and despite the section's haze of reverb, the productions sound lighter here.

The last portion, "redemption," is probably the album's strongest portion. Grxzz welcomes Indy rap peers G. Granite and Diop for a pair of cooler-than-a-cooler verses atop a jazzy, hi-hat-riding soul loop on the amazing "Body and Soul" before completing his story by finally finding the strength to look inward on the closing "The Voice." 

Yet, without the year-and-a-half layoff between the start of COTBR and its release, the album's full narrative might have stopped short of finally flying above the fray. Given Grxzz's propensity for cosmic signs and explanations, this particular album delay seems like it happened for a reason.


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